Analysis: Serena rant leaves WTA with tough decision

LONDON Mon Sep 12, 2011 8:07am EDT

Serena Williams of the U.S. reacts to a missed point to Samantha Stosur of Australia during their finals match at the U.S. Open tennis tournament in New York, September 11, 2011. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

Serena Williams of the U.S. reacts to a missed point to Samantha Stosur of Australia during their finals match at the U.S. Open tennis tournament in New York, September 11, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Lucy Nicholson

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LONDON (Reuters) - Already struggling in the shadows of a men's game enjoying a golden era, the women's tennis authorities face a dilemma after another high-profile Serena Williams rant at officialdom.

For the second time in two years the American three-times champion blew a fuse at the U.S. Open, launching a tirade at chair umpire Eva Asderaki after being docked a point for yelling "Come on!" during a rally in the final against Australia's Samantha Stosur.

While the language was less agricultural than two years ago when Williams threatened bodily harm to a female line judge in the semi-final against Kim Clijsters on the same Arthur Ashe stadium, the menacing tone of her remarks could spell trouble for the 29-year-old.

Her 2009 rant, when she was docked a penalty point that effectively handed the match to Clijsters by default, led to her being whacked with an $82,500 fine and being put on "probation" for two years with the threat that she could be suspended for any repeat performance.

"Any impact this code violation might have on Serena Williams' grand slam probation would require the incident being ruled a major event," a WTA statement said. "That determination will be made by the grand slam committee director."

The evidence, heard by viewers all over the world, was pretty damning.

After an initial blast at Asderaki following the decision to dock her a point to trail 1-0 in the second set, Williams went back to work with a vengeance at the next changeover after a brief revival during her surprise 6-2 6-3 defeat.

"If you ever see me walking down the hall, look the other way, because you're out of control," Williams said in her chair.

"You're totally out of control. You're a hater, unattractive inside. Who would do such a thing? And I never complain. Wow, what a loser.

"Give me a code violation because I expressed my emotion? We're in America last time I checked. Really, don't even look at me, don't look my way."


Williams showed no contrition for her behavior after the match, although she was gracious in defeat and chatted amiably with her opponent before the presentations.

The WTA would appear to be perfectly within its rights to punish the 13-times grand champion.

At the same time, however, they know that Serena's return in June from a career-threatening foot injury and subsequent life-threatening blood clots, has been an enormous boost for a women's game struggling for a figurehead.

World number one Caroline Wozniacki is yet to win a grand slam title while the likes of Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova and any number of eastern European baseliners fail to capture the imagination of the wider public.

Li Na's French Open triumph was a major breakthrough for the game's appeal in Asia, but despite losing to an inspired Stosur, a 100 percent fit Williams is still the yardstick for the women's game.

Her near 12-month absence from the sport left a huge void and any ban, just when she looks to be back to something approaching her best, could be bad for business especially with the American in the hunt to qualify for the end-of-year championships being staged in Istanbul for the first time.

A decision is expected later on Monday but while her outburst has attracted scorn around the world and slightly detracted from Stosur's magnificent achievement, there is no doubt that Williams puts women's tennis in the spotlight.

It also demonstrates that the fire still burns fiercely in one of the greatest women players to wield a racket and, as Stosur herself acknowledged, that can only be good for the sport.

"Serena, you are a fantastic player, great champion and have done wonders for our sport," the Australian said.

(Reporting by Martyn Herman)

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Comments (13)
jtdiehr wrote:
I know that there is a reasonable amount of decorum that is required in tennis. However, John Macenroe was one of the all time greats and all time egnagement of the officals in verbal combat. Why is the womens league more strengent or unable to deal with any commentary by the players. It is only a game, but it is their lives in essence to be the winner. That is their job. To challenge the judge on bad calls, to speak their mind, is also part of their job. When officals take a small outburst, to the next level- which I think they do unfairly at times, then so does the player. I loved John and I like seeing emotion on the field. Maby Serena could go to the MLB, I hear that they like to argue on the field there with their officals.

Sep 12, 2011 8:48am EDT  --  Report as abuse
marry wrote:
Serena’s behavior was disgraceful. She was losing so she tried to turn things around by rattling her opponent instead of raising her own level of play. This type of gutter tennis was perfected by John McEnroe who defended Serena’s behavior from the broadcast booth. I almost stopped watching tennis altogether during the McEnroe years because I hated watching those tantrums disrupting the tennis play. At a minimum Serena owes that referee a very public apology. And so does John McEnroe!

Sep 12, 2011 8:49am EDT  --  Report as abuse
Montana5 wrote:
What a embarrassment to US tennis Serena is! She has no class or dignity, and I hope the authorities render a harsh decision.

Sep 12, 2011 8:57am EDT  --  Report as abuse
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